Cash cow Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2010

Mike Wells literally grew up in his business, Wells’ Dairy Inc. He started as a route driver while working his way through college, and today, he is the company’s president and CEO.

The company is the largest family-owned and managed dairy processor in the United States and its well-known Blue Bunny products are distributed across the nation in supermarkets, foodservice establishments, convenience stores and neighborhood ice cream trucks.

Through perseverance, Blue Bunny has become the No. 3 brand in the country, but despite its success, challenges remain. The company competes against two of the biggest food companies in the world, Nestlé and Unilever.

Wells has charted a course to be the No. 1 or No. 2 brand in every channel and with every customer by 2020. He has made significant investments in the company’s processes, innovation, advertising and people. Despite being much smaller, Wells says the entrepreneurial spirit of the company offers several advantages.

First, the company culture and values set it apart. By hiring top people and letting them do what they do best, the company has a culture that allows it to compete with much larger competitors. Second is a focus on core business products. In early 2008, Wells’ Dairy shed two noncore businesses to focus solely on ice cream products. The third advantage is the company’s customer orientation. The company seeks to grow and serve its customers distinctly and to be their preferred ice cream supplier in each of the channels it competes — retail, foodservice and impulse.

Under his leadership, the company set sales records, improved its financial condition and reduced debt by nearly 40 percent. His confidence in the company showed when he purchased additional shares, allowing his family to become the majority owner of the company.

How to reach: Wells’ Dairy Inc., (712) 546-4000 or